In DnD 5e, Eldritch Knights are the spell-wielding Fighter subclass that have a lot going for them. They’re the ultimate “gish” (spellblade) subclass in 5e, and they’re universally regarded as a strong addition to any party. With great perks in defense, damage output, and general utility, there are a number of ways to build a satisfying Eldritch Knight.

This guide will cover their features, gameplay tips for each, their strengths and weaknesses, how to build an Eldritch Knight, and ideas for roleplaying one in your next DnD game. I’ll also rate their features on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Let’s get started.

eldritch knight fighter strikes with booming blade

Eldritch Knight Features

Spellcasting – 3rd-level (5/5)

You get two Wizard cantrips and three 1st-level Wizard spells, two of which must be from the abjuration or evocation schools of magic. You also get more Wizard spells/higher-level spell slots from these schools as you level, and Wizard spells from any school of magic at levels 8, 14, and 20. You can replace these spells as you level up. You use Intelligence as your spellcasting modifier for them.

Note: If you want to see all of my picks for the best Eldritch Knight spells in 5e, check out my article on the topic here.

Spellcasting Tips

  • Get Booming Blade. This cantrip will allow you to tank more effectively, as enemies who move after being hit by it will take 1d8 thunder damage. It also pairs great with your War Magic feature at 7th level, allowing you to follow up with a normal weapon attack as a bonus action. Levels 5 and 6 are a bit more awkward, because you can’t use Extra Attack with Booming Blade, but it’s still a great EK cantrip for many periods of the game.

  • Get the Shield spell. +5 AC for a round, as a reaction to being hit by an attack, possibly causing that attack to miss. Most Eldritch Knights are natural tanks, being in melee range of enemies and absorbing a lot of pressure. Shield is an overpowered spell for any class, but especially one that already sports a high armor class (AC).

  • Get Absorb Elements. Resistance (half damage) from an elemental effect in reaction to being hit by it — also lasts until the start of your next turn. The elemental version of Shield, and great for fights with spellcasters, dragons, and anything else that deals big-time elemental damage.

  • Mirror Image and Blur are great 8th-level options for defenders. At 8th-level, you get access to Wizard spells of any school — both Mirror Image and Blur are great for being tankier for a fight. Mirror Image also pairs fantastically with the Sentinel feat, but Blur is better for high AC characters if you don’t have Sentinel.

  • Shadow Blade is a great 8th-level option for damage-dealers. Boosts your damage output for a fight by being (likely) a better weapon than you have at this level.

  • Consider whether attacking is better than casting. Shield and Absorb Elements are particularly good on Eldritch Knights because they use your reaction rather than your action. At level 5, Extra Attack makes it so that using your action to Attack rather than cast a spell is almost always the optimal choice (until you get War Magic at 7th-level). Even before this, most of your time as an Eldritch Knight is spent just making melee attacks, like any other Fighter. You should always weigh the value of casting a spell against just straight-up attacking with your weapon.

Weapon Bond – 3rd-level (2/5)

Bond with a weapon over an hour during a short rest, making it so you cannot be disarmed and can summon the weapon to your hand instantly as a bonus action. You can bond with up to two weapons, but only summon one as a bonus action.

Weapon Bond is neat, but being disarmed isn’t all that common in 5e. It’s mostly a ribbon feature; not something that the subclass is built around.

Weapon Bond Tips

  • Cast spells with your hands full. Well, not really. BUT, Weapon Bond allows you to drop your weapon, cast a spell, and then re-summon it with a bonus action. Sure, it eats up your bonus action, but before you get the War Caster feat, this is your best option for casting spells with your hands full. Just remember to sheathe your weapon at the end of every turn if you can, since otherwise you won’t be able to cast Shield or Absorb Elements as a reaction.

  • Optimize opportunity attacks. By switching to a reach weapon at the end of your turn, you can control a 10-foot range with opportunity attacks, without having to commit to such a weapon as your main damage source. Pair with Sentinel for even greater effects. You can also instantly swap from a bow to a melee weapon to allow yourself opportunity attacks at all if you’re a ranged EK.

  • Never lose thrown weapons. If you happen to be using javelins, spears, daggers, or even nets, this is a good way to get them back after they’ve done their job. Plus, you can actually throw two weapons per turn with Extra Attack, without starting your turn with one already in your hands (normally, you can’t draw two weapons in the same turn).

  • Be armed at all times. Even if you have to give up your weapon for some roleplaying reason (meeting a noble, thrown in jail, etc.), your weapon will only be a bonus action away from being back in your hands.

War Magic – 7th-level (5/5)

After casting a cantrip, can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.

Here we go — the real meat and potatoes of what Eldritch Knights are all about. No longer do you have to forego spellcasting because Extra Attack is better; you get a spell AND an attack now. Even though you’re limited to cantrips, this is still huge, since Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade are back in play without hurting your damage per round (DPR) anymore (and even helping it).

War Magic Tips

  • Use Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade. Both the Blade spells work fantastically with Eldritch Knights, and work even better once you get War Magic.

  • Use Mind Sliver to bust concentration. It reduces the target’s next saving throw by 1d4, meaning it’s perfect to immediately follow up with an attack to break an enemy spellcaster’s concentration on an important spell.

  • Use Shocking Grasp to get away. If you want to attack a target but don’t want to provoke an opportunity attack, use Shocking Grasp on the monster who’s threatening you to remove their reactions, then run over to the party’s main target and weapon attack them as a bonus action. This is also good for ranged weapon EKs who want to get out of an enemy’s 5-foot range to avoid attack disadvantage on ranged attacks.

Eldritch Strike – 10th-level (4/5)

Gives a creature disadvantage on their next saving throw against a spell you cast before the end of your next turn after hitting it with a weapon attack.

This is a huge boon for overcoming the Eldritch Knight’s weakness — having a lower Intelligence modifier than Wizards. Even though your spell save DC won’t be as high, disadvantage tips the scales in your favor in a big way, especially for important spells like Hold Person.

Eldritch Strike Tips

  • Use Hold Person and Action Surge on your next turn. If you go with Hold Person as one of your “any spell school” Wizard spells (which I suggest you do), you can use Eldritch Strike on turn one, Hold Person on turn two, and then Action Surge to immediately get two advantaged, automatic critical hit attacks off on the Paralyzed target.

Arcane Charge – 15th-level (4/5)

Can teleport up to 30 feet after using Action Surge (before or after taking the additional action).

1-3 times, you can teleport as far as you can with Misty Step, without even expending a bonus action. This is a big help to your mobility, either defensively as a ranged EK or to get yourself into a better position to protect your party if you’re a tank.

Arcane Charge Tips

  • Get away from hazardous terrain without provoking an opportunity attack. If you’re sitting in an environmental hazard or persistent area-of-effect spell, Arcane Charge is a great way to get to safety without worrying about opportunity attacks.

  • Put distance between yourself and enemies. This is mostly a tip for ranged-focused Eldritch Knights who don’t want to be anywhere near the front line. If you’d rather be blasting from afar than up and the thick of it, Arcane Charge becomes a huge boost for your character’s survivability.

  • Close distances. On the opposite end of gameplay style, tank or melee striker EKs are prone to be kited by ranged enemies, especially those who are up stairs or behind cover and continuously run away from you as you chase them. Arcane Charge helps close the gap and give the enemy nowhere to run or hide.

Improved War Magic – 18th-level (5/5)

After casting a spell, can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.

Finally, you can use leveled spells before attacking — not just cantrips. Annoyingly, this comes pretty late in the EK build, when you already have two Extra Attacks, which is usually the superior choice to spell + one attack in terms of damage.

Improved War Magic Tips

  • Use Hold Person first. This feature opens up the door to using Hold Person first to immediately follow up with an advantaged, auto-crit melee attack.

  • Use defensive spells. Now, you don’t have to worry about losing out on offense to cast a spell like Blur or Mirror Image — you still get one attack on that turn.

  • Use Haste. A great spell for boosting your AC, movement speed, Dex saves, and giving you +1 action each turn. Not only can you attack once as a bonus action after casting it, but you can also use Extra Attack with your additional action on the same turn.

How to Build a Eldritch Knight in 5e

Strength and Intelligence are your most important abilities as an Eldritch Knight, with Constitution also being important for general tankiness and maintaining concentration on spells. Heavy armor is usually the better choice, as Eldritch Knights make excellent natural tanks, what with access to the Shield spell and all. But you can also be a Dexterity-focused EK instead and wear light or medium armor, usually with the goal of using a ranged weapon and being a dedicated backliner.

The point is, you can build your EK in a number of ways — as a tank, a frontline striker, or a ranged attacker. Here’s some advice for each of these three paths:

  • Tank. 15 Str, 10 Dex, 14 Con, 14 Int, 10 Wis, 8 Cha as your starting ability scores with point buy. The Defense fighting style (+1 AC) is always solid, but Dueling (+2 damage with one one-handed weapon) can actually be superior because it lets you wear a shield (+2 AC) while doing (almost) the same average damage as a two-handed weapon user (6.5 vs. 7). No matter what, you’re wearing heavy armor and can therefore ignore Dexterity almost completely (still good for initiative and saves, but not vital), going for plate armor as soon as possible.

    Booming Blade, Shield, Absorb Elements, and Blur are your go-to spell choices, along with Hold Person or Shadow Blade for more damage output or Misty Step for more mobility. You’ll also need the War Caster feat in order to cast spells with a somatic component, since both your hands will be full. The Sentinel and Polearm Master feats are also good options.

  • Frontline striker. Very similar to the tank Eldritch Knight in that you’re still maximizing Strength and not worrying about Dexterity. Even the best fighting styles are basically the same. You can use Find Familiar to use the Help action to give yourself attack advantage. You might also opt for more offensive spells like Magic Missile, Burning Hands, and Thunderwave (although you should still take Shield, it being an overpowered spell on any character and yourself fighting in melee range, after all).

    You can also use a two-handed weapon and always be able to take one hand off it to cast a spell, making War Caster less necessary. Shadow Blade is basically a must for maximizing damage if you’re going sword-and-board, and Fireball is always a good AoE spell to have in your back pocket. Haste still works wonders for you, as long as you can adequately protect your concentration, but Shadow Blade is the safer persistent damage boost. The Great Weapon Master feat is a top choice for boosting your weapon damage.

  • Ranged attacker. 8 Str, 15 Dex, 14 Con, 15 Int, 10 Wis, 8 Cha as your starting ability scores with point buy. The Archery fighting style (+2 on attack rolls with ranged weapons) is a necessary choice. Use a hand crossbow for the bonus attack you get from Crossbow Expert. The Sharpshooter and Crossbow Expert feats are basically necessary choices for maximizing your ranged damage.

    You can skip Booming Blade for cantrips like Mind Sliver and Shocking Grasp, but ranged blasting cantrips are still likely worse than just using your weapon to attack. Shield remains a top-tier spell for when you do get caught, and Mage Armor offers the highest possible AC. Find Familiar is even stronger on ranged EKs, but defensive spells like Blur and Mirror Image aren’t really necessary. Haste is even safer for ranged EKs, but Fly is also attractive to make yourself completely unhittable by melee foes (as well as the other many utilities of flight).

dragonborn eldritch knight fighter

Eldritch Knight Feats

There are a number of great feats for Eldritch Knights, and they’re the best way to specialize into your role as a tank, a striker, or a ranged attacker. Here’s a word on all of them:

  • War Caster. If you’re a sword-and-board Eldritch Knight, you basically need War Caster to fight effectively. Following the game’s rules, you can’t cast somatic spells without a free hand unless you have War Caster. Even if you’re not using a shield, advantage on Constitution saves is very important for a frontline warrior who has a lot of concentration spells (don’t want Haste getting knocked off early!)

    And finally, you can cast single-target spells in place of opportunity attacks, which pairs fantastically with Booming Blade — do they continue to run away and take damage, or stay put? War Caster is less necessary on ranged EKs, but it’s still a strong late-game choice for them.

  • Fey Touched. +Int, Misty Step, and a 1st-level Enchantment or Divination spell, both castable without a spell slot once a day. You can also cast them using spell slots. A half-ASI is good if you’re sitting at an odd-numbered Intelligence score, and Misty Step is one of the best spells in the game (and one you can’t get at most levels of EK). Extra mobility is always a good thing for a frontline fighter. I recommend Bless for the 1st-level spell — that +1d4 to attack rolls and saves for three members of your party (including yourself) is massive in DnD 5e’s system of bounded accuracy.

  • Magic Initiate. A 1st-level Wizard spell you can cast without a spell slot once a day (and after that using a spell slot) and two Wizard cantrips. More spells are always welcome for EKs, who are usually very limited in their spell selection, and a freecast is also great. Good if you want to really lean into the spellcasting element of EKs, especially since you’re not limited to abjuration and evocation spells with this feat. Or, you can pick Warlock spells and grab yourself Hex for a damage boost.

  • Great Weapon Master. If you’re leaning into the striker role of the Fighter class, GWM is one of the best feats in the game. +1 melee attack as a bonus action after landing a critical hit or killing a creature, and the ability to give yourself -5 on an attack roll for +10 damage. More attacks and more damage — what’s not to like?

  • Sentinel. One of the best feats in the game for tanky character builds, Sentinel drops a creature you hit with an opportunity attack to 0 speed, creatures provoke OAs even if they Disengage, and you can make an attack as a reaction when a creature within 5 feet of you attacks a target other than you. More battlefield control, more attacks, and it synergizes fantastically wtih two things: Mirror Image and the Polearm Master feat. Even if a creature attacks you with Mirror Image active, if the attack hits one of your mirrors instead, that triggers Sentinel’s free reaction attack — more damage and more tankiness, heck ya.

  • Polearm Master. Gain a d4 + weapon damage bonus action attack when you attack with a polearm and creatures trigger opportunity attacks when they ENTER your reach. Obviously, this is fantastic with Sentinel — if a creature enters your 10-foot range and you hit them, their speed drops to 0, and they can’t come any closer to attack you (or your allies). The only downside is that bonus actions are valuable to an EK who wants to use Booming Blade + War Magic bonus action to attack, meaning you won’t always get that free d4 attack off.

  • Sharpshooter. No disadvantage for long-ranged attacks with ranged weapons, ignore AC bonuses from cover, and can take -5 to your attack roll for +10 damage. This is Great Weapon Master for ranged weapon users, and it’s one of the best feats in the game for them.

  • Crossbow Expert. Ignore the loading quality of crossbows, having an enemy within 5 feet doesn’t give you disadvantage on ranged attacks, and can use a bonus action hand crossbow attack after taking the Attack action. More attacks and no worries if a creature enters your melee range — another top-tier feat for all ranged character builds, including ranged EKs.

Eldritch Knight 5e Multiclass Options

My advice for Eldritch Knight players is don’t multiclass til after you’ve hit level 7, and maybe even 8 for one more feat or ASI. But if you are multiclassing, go for a spellcasting class that already uses Intelligence as a spellcasting modifier — Wizard or Artificer. Specifically, the below subclasses work brilliantly with the EK kit:

  • War Wizard. A two-level Wizard dip gets you more Wizard spells and more spell slots, a big reason why Wizard mutliclassing works well with Eldritch Knights. Even better, War Magic gets you a +2 AC or +4 bonus to saving throws reaction after being hit or failing a save, with infinite uses. The only stipulation is that you can’t cast spells other than cantrips on your next turn — no big deal for Eldritch Knights, who usually prefer to attack or use cantrips anyway.

    Plus, your initiative bonus increases by your Intelligence modifier, which makes up for having a poor Dexterity modifier and helps you go sooner in combat. Overall, War Wizard is the best two-level multiclass dip available to Eldritch Knights.

  • Battle Smith Artificer. Artificer infusions are great, but they kind of change the class identity of an Eldritch Knight if roleplaying is important to you. But you also get the Shield spell for free, access to changeable Artificer spells, and more spell slots. Most importantly, Battle Smith allows you to use your Intelligence for your attack and damage rolls with magic weapons (which you’ll have by the time you’re multiclassing), allowing you to fully invest in Intelligence and ditch Strength after 15 (to wear plate armor).

    Plus, you get a Steel Defender, a very helpful near-permanent combat-ready summonable ally. It requires your bonus action to command, but that’s not usually an issue for EKs.

  • Armorer Artificer. More great subclass-specific spells that work great with the EK (Magic Missile, Thunderwave, and Mirror Image and Shatter if you go to level 5), as well as Arcane Armor — which takes away the Strength requirement for heavy armor and is usable as a spellcasting focus.

    Most importantly, the armor gives you a Guardian bonus (for tanks; my recommendation for EKs) or Infiltrator bonus (for ranged weapon users).

  • Chronurgy Wizard. Force two d20 rerolls a day, +Intelligence modifier to your initiative rolls. An easy-to-slot-in subclass for EKs. Plus, if you keep leveling this up, you get some truly bonkers features that are borderline game-breaking in 5e.

  • Divination Wizard. Divination Wizard’s Portent feature lets them replace any two d20s roll a day — great for any party, and a nice simple perk for Eldritch Knights.

  • Bladesinging Wizard. Bladesinger gets you Bladesong, which is great if you’re for some reason not wearing anything but light armor (or using Mage Armor) as a finesse weapon-wielding, Dexterity-focused melee Eldritch Knight — not a build I’d usually recommend. But Bladesong gives you +Int modifier to your AC, +10 movement speed, and +Int modifier to your concentration checks, all of which make this build viable. Overall, this is my least favorite option for an EK multiclass, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.

eldritch knight fighter reading a spellbook

Eldritch Knight Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Tanking. Heavy armor, the natural ability to go sword-and-board (with the War Caster feat), the Shield and Absorb Elements spells — yea, Eldritch Knights can tank better than most other subclasses in the game. Booming Blade also makes it harder for enemies to leave your area of control, and a reach weapon and Sentinel/Polearm Master bring that control to the next level.

  • Utility and versatility. Spellcasting is one of the most powerful features in DnD 5e, and even being a “one-third” caster who progresses slowly, the spells you do get are game-changing. Magic Missile can bust concentration and deal automatic damage, Thunderwave can push foes into hazardous terrain, Find Familiar brings you a constant ally to scout and give the Help action for attack advantage, Blur or Mirror Image make you a better tank, and Fireball is just one of the best AoE spells in the game. Truly, the options a regular Fighter has cannot compare to that of Eldritch Knights.


  • MAD (multiple ability-dependent). Needing Strength (or Dexterity), Intelligence, and Constitution is kind of annoying as an Eldritch Knight. Sure, you want powerful feats like War Caster to come online ASAP, but you also need to use those ASIs to increase these three stats — most importantly, the one you use for regular weapon attacks. Luckily, Fighters get the most ASIs of any class in DnD 5e, which somewhat mitigates the annoyance of being MAD.

  • Reliance on the War Caster feat for sword-and-boards. If both your hands are full, you can’t cast spells with a somatic component. Weapon Bond allows you to drop your weapon, cast a spell, and then re-summon it with a bonus action, but this does eat up your bonus action and can be clunky to use. You can also just use a two-handed weapon and take one hand off to cast a spell (you only need two hands to attack with such weapons), so War Caster isn’t totally necessary; just for fully-optimized Eldritch Knights who want to tank.

Is Eldritch Knight a Good Subclass in 5e?

Yes, Eldritch Knight is a very good subclass in 5e, solidly in the A-tier of 5e’s subclasses. And it’s among the best subclasses available to Fighters, right up there with Battle Master and Echo Knight. Spellcasting is the most powerful feature that DnD 5e has to offer, and even getting a small dip into it is impactful — especially abjuration and evocation spells.

Plus, the standard Fighter class is already strong and versatile in DnD 5e; adding more strength and versatility to it is just gravy. You can tank better, deal more damage, provide more utility, and have better mobility as an Eldritch Knight Fighter, making it a solid A-tier subclass.

Roleplaying a Eldritch Knight

Eldritch Knights achieve their small modicum of magical prowess from careful study, not from innate skill, a patron, or a deity. That somewhat narrows your roleplaying options as an Eldritch Knight, but limitations can actually be beneficial for creativity.

Here are some ideas that fit within this basic framework to make roleplaying an Eldritch Knight more fun:

  • A mage conclave’s apprentice. You were a small-time folk hero who made a name for herself through martial prowess. So much so that a passing wizard took note of your skill and saw something more in you: a spark of magic.

    You were invited to study and were beginning to learn a lot about the weave. But you had barely begun your studies before the conclave was attacked, and you had no choice but to flee. With a few spellbooks in your possession and your master’s training in your head, you vowed to continue your studies and defend the world’s arcane knowledge.

  • A spell thief. They laughed at you when you applied to the wizard college. A country bumpkin with no formal education, you were seen as a hopeless case. So you trained with a sword instead and started to achieve some small skill at it. But your bitterness never left you.

    So you started sneaking into the college, taking a book here, a scroll there. Ambition drove you to practice your spellcasting every day to prove to those old wizards that you do have a mind capable of casting spells – and martial prowess to put those weak old wizards to shame.

  • A fortunate heir. You always wanted to be a warrior, and trained hard to be a good one. Not just with the blade, but with tactics as well. A student of history, war, and engineering, you dreamed of being a commander; not just a foot soldier.

    On your twentieth nameday, you were gifted an inheritance from an uncle you never met; a wizard. No gold or lands did he gift you, but something far more precious: his spellbooks. You became obsessed with learning their secrets as avidly as any study you’d previously undertaken and slowly started to round out your skillset with spells and incantations.

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